March 19, 2009

FDA warns against sharing insulin pens

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an alert to healthcare professionals, reminding them that single-patient insulin pens shouldn't be shared.

The FDA said insulin pens and insulin cartridges shouldn't be used to administer medication to multiple patients due to the potential risk of transmitting blood-borne pathogens.

Officials explained insulin pens are pen-shaped injector devices that contain a disposable needle and either an insulin reservoir or an insulin cartridge. The devices typically contain enough insulin for a patient to self-administer several doses before the reservoir or cartridge is empty. All insulin pens are approved only for single-patient use.

The FDA said it has received reports of incidents at two unidentified hospitals in which the cartridge component of the insulin pens were used to administer medication to more than 2,000 people, although the disposable needles were reportedly changed among patients.

Insulin pens are designed to be safe for one patient to use one pen multiple times with a new, fresh needle for each injection, said Dr. Amy Egan, deputy director of safety at the FDA's division of metabolism and endocrinology products. Insulin pens are not designed, and are not safe, for one pen to be used by more than one patient, even if needles are changed between patients due to the risk of transmitting blood-borne pathogens.